How teachers and daycare providers can help
When someone we know is hurting over the death of someone they love, the first questions we ask ourselves are “What do I say?” and “What should I do?” We want to help, but we often don’t know what to do or feel powerless to make a difference.
Practical ideas on ways you can help a grieving child
- Acknowledge the death by expressing your sympathy.
- Attend the funeral or memorial services.
- Talk with the rest of the class about the death before the child returns. Read a book about death or dying to the class and answer their questions. We have put together a suggested reading list.
- It is common for other children to make fun of the grieving child for having had a loved one die. This seems strange to us as adults but happens often. We believe this is not a sign of cruelty but a lack of understanding or a fear that this could happen to them. Keep your eyes open for this behavior and use it as a moment to address underlying concerns.
- Be sensitive that activities related to family may make the child uncomfortable.
- Recognize that grief comes and goes and will be with the child the whole time they are in your class. Moments of sadness or memory are easily confused with failing to pay attention in class and even hyperactivity.
- The brain of a grieving child is working hard to keep up with, process, and adjust to this major life change—they may have less brain power available for school work for a while, probably for longer than you think they should.
- Reassure the child that playing, laughing and enjoying friends and fun activities are good, healthy and natural things for them to do.
- Remember that holidays and significant days like birthdays may bring renewed sadness or anger. That’s normal and your acknowledgement may be helpful.